Thursday, May 21, 2009

Transitions...

"In the Gospels, we watch a Christ who, in dismissing certainties, shows us what freedom might mean. We watch the way in which he enters into people's live and dissolves an existing situation, whatever it might be. The likelihood was that the condition had promised security, safety, but now Christ challenges the people to leave their nets, or to leave a nice, safe booth and to follow him. He says to Peter, James, and John, 'Come,' and to Matthew, 'Stand up, move, walk, come with me.' Our God is a God who moves and he invites us to move with him. He wants to pry us away from anything that might hold us too securely: our careers, our family systems, our money making. We must be ready to disconnect. There comes a time when the things that were undoubtedly good and right in the past must be left behind, for there is always the danger that they might hinder us from moving forward and connecting with the one necessary thing, Christ himself."

~Esther de Waal in To Pause at the Threshold: Reflections on Living on the Border

In the process of moving house, most things have now been packed and are ready to be transferred to our storage unit. The little bit of furniture that will be hauled to our new home has mostly been moved to one corner of the living room now. And, without thinking, I've moved myself there, too

Next to one of the living room windows, I set up a beat up little table I'll set up in my apartment. A lamp rests on it, and it didn't take long for a small stack of books to form beside the lamp. Even though the table is there only temporarily, awaiting its move, it has become my morning quiet time place and the place I sit when I want to eat something, to read with pen and paper at hand, to make lists, or to write in my journal. And it's a very pleasant spot.

I realized this morning, as the coffee finished brewing in the French press and I began to walk toward the living room to sit down with my journal and coffee, that I have made something of an initial transition already without even thinking about it. I have left behind my old familiar spots for reading and relaxing-- the dining table and the chair in the corner adjacent to the woodstove-- and I've left them behind with good memories but no regrets. I'm at the threshold of a new time, a new stage of my life.

As I thought about this, I realized something. Keeping this blog has been a gift to me in a way that I didn't expect. It's a journal of my very ordinary daily life over the course of an entire year, through the seasons and holidays, of our celebrations and joys, through times of grief and times of delight. It's a keepsake glimpse of one year of our family life and some of the philosophy that has guided that life, lived here in our High Desert Home.

It's not a journal of everything we did, of everything we thought, of everything we enjoyed or endured, but it's a real, honest, grateful glimpse of the lovely life the Lord blessed us with here. I can look at my blog and recall good things. Through photos and my words, I can remember and enjoy and be thankful all over again for God's many blessings.

I will look back with a smile and a full heart, but not with yearning. I've loved living here. It's where my kids mostly grew up and where we enjoyed day after lovely day together. This place and the time we spent here has become part of the fabric of our lives, and so, in some nice ways, it's always with us. We have been made and shaped and changed here, but the time has clearly come for us to move forward. The kids already have, and Mike's job took him away long ago. Our thoughts of retiring here are gone, and we have no regrets about that.

I look forward to what comes next, and I feel extremely blessed. God continually surprises me with His provision in every way. I want to make the business of my life to be one of seeing the blessings of God and of counting them every single day.

I'm moving, transitionally (more changes will come in time), to a small apartment. No, it's teeny-tiny. And like I said earlier, that's okay with me. I don't mind living a smaller life; in fact, I welcome it. If there's one thing I've come to know, it's that things really are just things. When I narrowed my possessions down to what I would take with me and what I would not, it came down to three things. Useful. Beautiful. Meaningful. And when this is narrowed down to what is most useful, beautiful, and meaningful, it enlightened me a bit to my values.

~I really do intensely dislike clutter in my space and would rather get rid of special things than live in a frustratingly crowded place.

~Not much matters as far as material possessions go. It really doesn't. But that doesn't mean I won't try to make my surroundings pleasant and cheerful. God surrounded us with beauty. That matters. Some of my stuff has seen its better days, for sure, but that's okay, and it wouldn't be beautiful to anyone else, but because it's charged with meaning and memories, there's a sweetness to it for me. When I talk about beauty, I'm not talking about magazine-home beauty. What's going with me is either well loved or useful.

~My books were the most difficult to narrow down. (I'm taking half cookbooks.) I realized that the books I wanted were the ones that spoke of the kind of inner life I love. The ones that are lovely to read. The ones that inspire me to simplicity. The ones about giving and sharing and showing hospitality (yes, even in a teeny-tiny world). The ones that challenge me not to be about myself, but to be about others. Without trying to, I narrowed the books down to what is extremely well-written-- things that are accepted as classics or are "classic" to my own life.

~Oh, you don't need to have the whole list, and, anyway, I don't have time to write it!~

I think the biggest challenge I'll get to meet is the kitchen stove. :-) It's like a dollhouse stove. I don't think a 9x13 inch pan can fit into the oven. The burners are all laughingly small. Will I be able to use two of them to heat my Dutch oven? :-) I love to cook, and I'd really like to have a great big, six-burner, restaurant style, gas stove, but I think I've got the smallest four burner electric stove that was ever made! People have cooked on a single electric burner on their counters before, though. Really, this is nothing to complain about. It's something to have fun adjusting to. And I mean that.

One of the blessings of middle age is that you've been through a lot of changes, a lot of ups and downs, maybe some crises, probably some loss. And what you learn, if you welcome the lesson, is that it all ends up not mattering. What matters-- really matters (and I'm not being spiritually trite here)-- is loving God and loving others.

Smooth transitions, changes, and adjustments all start with choice. With openness. With no demands. With letting go. There's a huge amount of freedom in this and a sense of adventure. Why not see each threshold or transition as an adventure? As exciting? Or at least as good. Can I stand on that threshold and feel the welcoming breeze, smell the fresh air, see the warm and compelling light? What's out there? I just need to step through to find out.

Like what is behind, what is ahead will not be perfectly ideal or always-sweet and giddy. Life is not like that. But if we believe that God is leading us along, what is there to fear? Why keep looking back? He says He has us hemmed us in behind and before. He says He lights our path. He says He will never leave us or forsake us. He says His plans for us are good.

I believe Him.